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Martin forgets yardage book, still grabs share of Evian lead

By Randall MellSeptember 14, 2018, 7:59 pm

If Mo Martin keeps this going at the Evian Championship and wins her second major, her trusted caddie knows he’ll be working overtime.

Craig Castrale will have to wait around until the bitter end on Sunday to make sure Martin doesn’t leave Evian Resort without the trophy.

“I can be a little bit mindless, which is embarrassing,” Martin said.

Martin shot 5-under-par 66 Friday to gain a four-way share of the second-round lead despite forgetting her yardage book. She was in a “small panic” when she turned to Castrale on her way to the first tee.

“I was like, `Do you have my yardage book?’” Martin said. “He was like, `no.’”

Fortunately, Castrale had one of his old ones. Martin warned him things like this would happen when they first started working together three seasons ago.

“I told him when we first started, `I'm going to have no idea where my car keys are or my badge,’” Martin said.

When Castrale stopped laughing, he could see Martin was serious. This wasn’t a drill to prepare him.

“I have no idea where they are,” she told him.

Martin is one of the most intelligent players on tour, but apparently there’s an absent-minded professor quality about her that goes way back.

“The day I got my driver's license, I had everything that said I was a human being in a file,” Martin said.

That included her passport.

And she put the papers on top of the car and drove away.

“My shoes were on top of the car, too,” Martin said.

Full-field scores from Evian Championship

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Martin, however, never forgets how to hit fairways. It’s what she does better than anyone in the game, and it’s being rewarded more than usual this week.

It’s also helps that her putting is moving to another level.

Evian Resort Golf Club is offering a tougher test than players have seen in the past. With more blue skies and sun than they are accustomed to seeing there in September, the course is firmer and faster. Balls are rolling through fairways into penal rough.

Hitting fairways and negotiating Evian’s dramatically sloped greens are keys to the week. Martin is at her best on tough tests like that. Her lone LPGA victory came at the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014.

“There are all styles of players on this leaderboard,” Martin said. “I think that’s a testament to the course.”

At 8-under, Martin is tied for the lead with three players trying to win their first major. Amy Olson (65), rookie Maria Torres (69) and Mi Hyang Lee (66) are aiming to keep the year’s “breakthrough” theme going in the majors.

Pernilla Lindberg got it started winning her first major at the ANA Inspiration at year’s start.

Georgia Hall followed her lead winning her first major at the Ricoh Women’s British Open last month.

Now everyone and her sister is lining up at the Evian Championship to see if she can break through this weekend.

Four of the top five players on the leaderboard have never won majors.

Count Carlota Ciganda (70) in that mix. She’s one shot off the lead.

“I’ve been playing good all year, especially in the majors, so I think I'm ready,” Ciganda said.

Martin isn’t the only proven major winner with a chance.

So Yeon Ryu (69), Brooke Henderson (69) and Georgia Hall (68) are among a pack of players sitting two shots off the lead.

Inbee Park (69) is three back, with In Gee Chun (70) and Morgan Pressel (68) four back. Park is in position to try to win her eighth major championship title and end any debate over whether she has won the career Grand Slam. She won the Evian Championship in 2012, the year before it became a major.

“I still have my name on the trophy, but I think it'll be just really nice to put it twice on the trophy,” Park said.

How tough is the course playing?

After opening with a 77, Rolex world No. 1 Sung Hyun Park missed the cut by three shots. Lexi Thompson shot 75 on Friday and missed the cut by one.

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Rose realizes his No. 1 ranking is precarious

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:18 pm

ATLANTA – Asked how he would like to be identified when he was finished playing golf, Justin Rose didn’t hesitate – “major champion, Olympic gold medalist, world No. 1.”

He’s had only a week to enjoy the last accomplishment, but the Englishman is aware of what it means to his career to have finally moved into the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“It's a moment in your career that you always remember and cherish,” said Rose, who overtook Dustin Johnson with his runner-up finish two weeks ago at the BMW Championship.

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Rose said he took some time last weekend with family and friends to relish the accomplishment and will play his first event this week at the Tour Championship as the world’s best, but he also understands how tenuous his position atop the ranking is at the moment.

“I accept it's really tight up top. It could easily switch this week,” he said. “I just feel that if I go to [No.] 2 or 3 this week, if Dustin and Brooks [Koepka] both play well, I have an opportunity the week after and British Masters, and going to China and Turkey, there's going to be opportunities to get back there.”

Johnson, Koepka and Justin Thomas could unseat Rose atop the ranking this week depending on their finishes at the Tour Championship.

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Likely ROY Wise not looking past 'special' East Lake

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:05 pm

ATLANTA – Much like the PGA Tour Player of Year Award, voting for the Rookie of the Year Award is very much a rubber stamp this season.

Brooks Koepka is a lock to win the Jack Nicklaus Trophy after winning two majors - the U.S. Open and PGA Championship - despite missing a portion of the season with an injury. Similarly, Aaron Wise, who won the AT&T Byron Nelson, is the only rookie this year to advance to the Tour Championship, which is normally the threshold players use for voting for Rookie of the Year.

“I knew with the rookie class that we had it was going to be tough, and the players still have to vote but it’s definitely something that was important to me,” he said on Wednesday at East Lake. “My focus is just finishing strong this week and giving them a reason to vote for me.”

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For Wise, who had four top-10 finishes this season and begins the week 21st on the FedExCup point list, the chance to win the award is gratifying, but being among the best 30 players on Tour, and securing his spot in all four major championships next season, is an accomplishment worth savoring.

“To win Rookie of the Year you have to have a solid season, but to make it to East Lake, so many guys don’t get this far. You really have to have a special season and this is really special,” Wise said.

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Stanford returns home to share Evian celebration

By Randall MellSeptember 19, 2018, 5:33 pm

Angela Stanford’s eyes welled with tears when her flight touched down at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in her return from winning the Evian Championship.

When she lands from the south, as she did Monday, she always looks for the towering grain elevators in her Saginaw hometown. She also always looks for downtown Fort Worth’s skyline.

She got teary with the replica of the Evian Championship trophy in her carry-on in the luggage bin above her seat, knowing she wasn’t bringing it home just for her.

But for her mother, Nan, who’s battling a second bout with breast cancer.

For her father, Steve, who got her started in the game.

For other family and friends.

For Shady Oaks, the club Ben Hogan made famous, where she is a member.

And for TCU, her alma mater.

She realized how empty she felt in so many returns from major championships.

She’s 40 now.

She won in her 76th try in a major.

For so long, Stanford believed she had what it took to win a major, but that only made the string of disappointments harder.

“So I remembered what it felt like coming home from so many disappointments, but not this time,” Stanford said. “This time I got to bring something home for everyone to see.”

When Stanford got off the plane, her parents were among a group of family and friends waiting to greet her. So was her TCU coach, Angie Larkin, who brought along the Horned Frogs mascot, Superfrog.

Tour pros Kristy McPherson, Dori Carter, Kendall Dye and Emory University coach and former tour pro Katie Futcher were all in Fort Worth helping Stanford celebrate.

“It was pretty cool,” Stanford said. “Of course, I asked them all if they wanted to see the trophy.”

She pulled it out of her carry-on and never put it back.

“It’s a heavy trophy, but I told them I’m carrying this everywhere,” Stanford said.

There was a celebration dinner with family and friends Monday night, and another celebration with friends on Tuesday.

“I think it’s just the start of many celebrations with more friends to see,” Stanford said.

Stanford went to work with a new swing coach about a year ago, Todd Kolb, from Sioux Falls, S.D. In her flight home, she thought about how grateful she was for all the help poured into her game, not just the good work Kolb is doing, but the foundation important figures in her life helped to lay. She thought about the lessons and wisdom Amy Fox, Mike Wright and Joe Hallett passed along.

“I’m still using things I learned from my first instructor,” Stanford said. “Amy Fox is a huge reason I’m playing on tour. Mike Wright is a huge reason why I’ve won on tour. Joe Hallett helped me navigate through a tough time in my career.

“They were all important to my winning Sunday. They all gave me building blocks, and they’ve all helped lay the foundation to what I’m learning now from Todd.”

Stanford said being able to share her gratefulness made her return home special.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” she said. “It’s been everything you could imagine it would be.”

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Finau plays with 'idol' Tiger, but don't get excited

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 5:05 pm

ATLANTA – This has been a season of firsts for Tony Finau.

He played his first Masters – after severely injuring his ankle, no less – and all four of the World Golf Championship events for the first time. He also made his first Ryder Cup team.

On Tuesday at East Lake there was another first. He played a nine-hole practice round with Tiger Woods.

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“It was pretty special for me because it's the first time I ever played with him in a practice round, tournament, whatever the case may be,” Finau said. “I've been on Tour four years now, and that's the first time I ever had the chance to play with him. Again, my golfing idol. That was a special day for me yesterday to play with him, pick his brain a little bit, and just get to know him a little bit better.”

Woods and Finau played with Bryson DeChambeau, who has become the popular choice to be a potential partner for Woods at next week’s Ryder Cup. Some have speculated that Finau could partner with Phil Mickelson in Paris, but Tuesday’s practice round created the scenario of another rookie possibly playing with Woods. Finau seemed to quickly dismissed that idea.

“I don't see a lot of potential playing with Tiger,” Finau said.